“To borrow a rom-com staple, sometimes you don’t know what you’re missing until it’s right in front of you.” That’s how Nikesh Patel, 33, feels about starring in Hulu’s limited series Four Weddings and a Funeral. Co-created by Mindy Kaling and Matt Warburton, the show is a charming reboot of the 1994 movie directed by Mike Newell and scripted by Richard Curtis, in which Hugh Grant and Andie MacDowell fall for each other, but it takes four weddings and a funeral to get to happily ever after. In the series, the writers reinvent the same scenario with help from an engaging multicultural cast and Kaling’s comedy, which is rooted in her own encyclopedic knowledge of the genre.
At the heart of Four Weddings‘ deliciously complicated web is Patel’s Kash, a British banker who secretly dreams of acting, and Maya, an American senatorial campaign worker (played by Game of Thrones‘ Nathalie Emmanuel) who’s been sleeping with her boss. When she flies to London for her BFF Ainsley’s (Rebecca Rittenhouse) birthday, luggage issues lead to a meet-cute at Heathrow with Kash, whom she describes as “Ryan Gosling dipped in caramel.” Too bad he’s already dating her bestie.
“She’s a big pile of mess,” says Emmanuel, 30, with a laugh. It’s quite a change from playing the tragic Missandei on HBO’s fantasy megahit. “Often in rom-coms, the female lead is the dream girl who always says the right thing,” Emmanuel continues. “Maya is likable, but she’s also messy. She’s making bad choices and not always doing the right thing, but she’s trying to be better.”
As much as Four Weddings is an homage to classic romantic comedies — the pilot alone references Clueless, Say Anything…, and Love Actually — it’s also about advancing the genre by incorporating complex female characters and adding diversity to its central love story. It’s not every day that viewers see a black woman and a Pakistani man fall in love on TV without fanfare. “It’s really important to center a British Muslim man in a way that doesn’t happen very often,” notes Patel. “There are a number of stories where a character like that is seen as a threat or as peripheral.”
But in this scenario, Patel’s character is just a boy, standing in front of Emmanuel’s girl, asking her to… ignore the whole I’m-dating-your-best-friend thing. “Even in this romantic comedy, everyone’s just figuring things out,” says Emmanuel. Thankfully, we know they’ll have 10 episodes, four weddings, and one funeral to do just that.
Four Weddings and a Funeral premieres Wed., July 31 on Hulu.